Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Film Movement
2021
121 Minutes
Japan
Japanese
Drama, Romance, Asian
Not Rated

An unexpected love triangle, a failed seduction, and a chance encounter with the past. Propelled by coincidence and imagination, and guided by love’s gentle current, acclaimed director Ryūsuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour, Asako I & II) returns with an enchanting triptych that spins mundane encounters into a world of infinite possibilities. In Episode 1: Magic (or Something Less Assuring), a young woman is startled when she realizes that her best friend’s new flame might just be her ex; in Episode 2: Door Wide Open, a disgruntled student plots to trick his college professor, using his friend-with-benefits as bait; and in Episode 3: Once Again, a girl’s college reunion leads to an unanticipated run-in with an old friend, and awakens feelings long since forgotten. Playfully inspired by life’s tiny miracles, and bound together by memory, regret, deception, and fate, Hamaguchi leaves no stone unturned in his quest to chart the ever-deepening mysteries of the all-too-human heart.

Director & Cast

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Belcourt Theatre Nashville TN December 10, 2021
MFA Houston Houston TX December 19, 2021
George Eastman House Rochester NY January 21, 2022
Pickford Film Center Bellingham WA May 31, 2022

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Reviews

  • "A playful triptych of self-contained vignettes... wonderfully beguiling.... "
    David Ehrlich, IndieWire
  • "It is a stunning production, from the precision of Hamaguchi’s script and direction, the fine performances, and Yukiko Iioka’s gorgeous camerawork, to Fuminori Usui’s everyday costuming, the bright colors and natural light, and the gently lilting score. It’s an overwhelming film, amongst the best of the year, and a beautiful reminder of all the lives being lived in spite of our oddly lifeless time."
    Rory O'Connor, The Film Stage
  • "The geometry of desire is elegantly plotted in “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,” a wistful, moving, outwardly unassuming movie. [It] is a perfect entry point into Hamaguchi’s work. [B]oth times I watched this movie, I found something to admire, consider, argue with and weep over. Critic's Pick!"
    Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
  • "Full of understated, melancholy poetry. Hamaguchi’s intimate snapshots of middle-class angst are unusually humane by the standards of modern cinema, frequently invoking Eric Rohmer’s warmly indulgent depictions of Parisian bourgeois ennui. Emotionally authentic and consistently absorbing."
    Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter
  • "Ingenious, playful, sparklingly acted and thoroughly entertaining portmanteau collection. Elegant and amusing, with a delicacy of touch and real imaginative warmth. The narratives saunter along lightly but fundamentally seriously, asking us to consider how the paths we take in life – the wrong turnings, the right turnings – can be governed by the merest chance. An invigorating experience."
    Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
  • "A poignant, sometimes piercing triptych of tales, each one predicated on chance encounters and romantic possibilities (the original Japanese title translates as “Coincidence and Imagination”), it finds Hamaguchi in playful, beguiling and quietly affecting form. The unforgettable closing image contains emotional multitudes, and it throws the meaning of all three stories into subtly clarifying relief: The past may be irretrievable, but the present is still a gift."
    Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
  • "Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's film is an alternately scathing, erotic, terrifying, and affirming fable of the primordial power of storytelling."
    Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine
  • "Three lovelorn episodes about “coincidence and imagination”, as described by writer-director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, comprise this wondrous, searching and loquacious film. Hamaguchi has spoken of his debt to Éric Rohmer, and, akin to that filmmaker’s work, there’s plenty of prose and dialogue to absorb across these thematically twined tales, elegantly rendered by artful camera placements and sly, disorienting shot selection."
    Joseph Owen, The Upcoming
  • "Hamaguchi's beautifully written, elegantly crafted triptych is a melancholy delight."
    Orla Smith, Seventh Row
  • "Hamaguchi proves himself to be one the most astute observers of human conditions in contemporary cinema. It's one of those films you want to see it again immediately after finishing it."
    Dustin Chang, Screen Anarchy
  • "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is another aching, beautiful film from Hamaguchi, and plays like the visualization of an obscure literary collection begging for rediscovery."
    Nicholas Bell, Ion Cinema
  • "[I]n terms of conceptual ambition and formal adventurousness, Wheel Of Fortune is every bit the equal of Drive My Car. It’s also arguably the most concerted expression of Hamaguchi’s artistic preoccupations to date.""
    Lawrence Garcia, The AV Club
  • "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy exquisitely showcases Hamaguchi’s gift for homing in on moments of person-to-person contact and dilating its particular, hair-trigger tensions. "
    Matthew Eng, Reverse Shot
  • "A haunting, funny, tightly written meditation on loneliness and connection...."
    Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
  • "“Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” is a love letter to the art of spinning a good yarn, but it’s also a sharply observed paean to the lies and truths we tell ourselves so that we may function from day to day."
    Odie Henderson, RogerEbert.com
  • "The more familiar I become with his work, the more fascinated I am with both the exacting, un-showy stylistic control and philosophical resonances of “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy.” "
    Godfrey Cheshire, RogerEbert.com
  • "“Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” highlights once more, its filmmaker’s intimate knowledge of the human psyche, and the rather original and intelligent cinematic way he has come up with in order to present its various aspects."
    Panos Kotzathanasis, Asian Movie Pulse
  • "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is a gorgeous trifecta of human connections that deserves to be seen for its extraordinary simplicity and varying perspectives. Don’t miss it."
    Shashwat Sisodiya , High On Films
  • "[T]he situations he conjures, probes and plays with in this film are a joy to watch unfold."
    Matt Turner, Little White Lies
  • "Delicately written and deeply thought-provoking, Hamaguchi's anthology feels like it's been adapted from a novel, such is the exquisite nature of the characterisation."
    James Mottram, South China Morning Post
  • "{F]resh and original, and – above all – sociologically sharp. "
    Mateusz Tarwacki, Eye For Film
  • " I haven’t been this enamored by an anthology film since Wild Tales.... The movie is relatable, entertaining, melancholy, and impeccably produced with every facet in front of and behind the camera firing on all cylinders. And it’s also authentic in its pain. Whether succumbing to or conquering, its impact remains."
    Jared Mobarak
  • "Hamaguchi is a master of character development."
    Valerie Complex, Deadline Hollywood
  • "This has some of the most authentic, and beautiful, scenes of any movie I’ve seen this year..... It’s thoughtful and beguiling. I was won over completely."
    Brian Skutle, Sonic Cinema
  • "Whimsical and poignant."
    Andrew Bundy, The Playlist
  • "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is not to be missed. It is a seemingly flawless work that expertly gives shape to the many intricacies of love and desire. It is an honest film that paints its female characters as deep, enriching individuals with emotions that vastly stretch beyond the age-old stereotypes often afforded to women in love. Heavily steeped in conversation, such dialogue is the movie’s strength, powering the viewer forward through each chance interaction towards a plane entirely free of preconceived ideas and that instead revels in the messiness and beauty that is so often described as love."
    Miyako Pleines, Spectrum Culture
  • "Both Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy and Drive My Car incorporate themes of the erotic thrill of crafting a narrative, the power in playing pretend, and the malleable and ever-transmogrifying nature of human relationships. Though his highly anticipated Drive My Car distills these musings in a slightly more meticulous manner, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy cuts to the chase in a way that’s quaintly quirky—and never dull to watch unfold."
    Natalia Keogan, Paste Magazine
  • "Hamaguchi has a beautiful outlook on mistakes and the complex emotions that make up humanity, and his tenderness toward each character he brings to life makes him one of the best storytellers working today."
    Jenny Nulf, Austin Chronicle
  • "That film made me envious as a director and I just loved it. When I woke up the next morning, I found that I was still thinking about it. What a wonderful experience."
    Hirokazu Kore-eda